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History of Santa ClausIt may surprise you to learn that most of the world does not pretend to their children that there is a Santa Claus. The mythical Santa Claus is a rather recent development, coming mostly in the last 100 years, though the roots of the myth go back hundreds of years. Of course, the wikipedia has plenty on Santa Claus.
The St. Nicholas Center website presents many of the embellished legends of St. Nicholas, as well as the history of the mythical Santa Claus. Since a lot of churches in Europe have been named after St. Nicholas and many records of him exist, he probably was a real Christian leader who helped poor people.
And this Santa Claus page attempts to clarify how the concept developed over the last 200 years or so in America.
We also found a non-Christian look at Santa Claus. Definitely worth a look, to help you think through Santa from an unbeliever's point of view. Especially worth noting is the section on the "Theology of Santa Claus," in which they notice that the mythical Santa Claus is given most of the attributes of God. Also note that that website’s author himself connects his rejection of God with being taught that there was a Santa Claus when he was young and then finding out later that it was not true. In a similar manner he decided that God was mythical too.
The Real St. Nicholas vs. the mythical Santa ClausThe real St. Nicholas would have had almost the exact opposite impact of the mythical Santa Claus figure which was popularized by Coca-Cola, Hollywood, Sears and various other merchants in the last 100-150 years.
The mythical Santa Claus in America generates stressed out moms and whiny greedy kids, clamoring for the toys they simply must have, because the advertisers and designers found the perfect way to get them. The real St. Nicholas would have generated compassion for the poor and needy.
The mythical Santa Claus was popularized to increase sales of material goods. The real St. Nicholas would have told you the story of Jesus Christ, how He came to earth to teach us right ways of living, to have compassion on others, to give of yourself at all costs.
Santa Claus has supernatural power to make his sleigh and reindeer fly. The real St. Nick walked this earth like you and me and would tell you how real life comes through faith in the Most High Supernatural Power.
The mythical Santa Claus distracts and detracts from focusing on the birth of Christ. The real St. Nicholas would have wept at the thought of his name being connected with that.
Whether or Not To Do Santa Claus in your familyThe whole outplaying of Santa Claus often usurps the role of the birth of Jesus Christ as the central theme for Christmas. What is the primary theme of your Christmas? Is it the gifts that Santa Claus has for kids? How much better it would be to stop doing Santa Claus, (or better yet, never start doing Santa Claus, if you are just beginning your own family.) And replace Santa Claus with the concept of the gifts coming from parents, given because Jesus gave us the greatest gift, which was Himself. You can do that. It's not that hard. Just tell your kid(s) that Santa Claus was just for pretend and now instead of pretending you're going to tell them what is real.
If you feel like you really need to do Santa Claus in your family, emphasize the real St. Nicholas and his generosity toward the poor.
One sensitive issue in this is how your children relate to other children whose parents tell them that there is a Santa Claus. If you decide to not pretend there is a Santa Claus, then carefully think through how you want your small child to relate to other kids when issues of Santa Claus come up, and then have several conversations with him/her about it. If your child becomes known as the neighborhood Santa buster, who feels like it’s his duty to tell all the other kids that their parents are lying to them, you may become unpopular fast. However, you also need to give your kids room to make some mistakes in how they deal with the issue. Remember, your child will not have done wrong by revealing that there is no Santa Claus. If anyone is in the wrong, it is those who have said that there is a Santa Claus when they know that there really is not.
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